Experts evaluated older women taking vitamin D3 and calcium supplements
Many elderly people are deficient in the vitamin due to not going outdoors a lot
Years of research shows that a lack of the nutrient increases the risk of cancer
Taking fashionable Vitamin D supplements does not reduce the risk of cancer for older women, a study shows.
It has long been thought that having low levels of the sunshine vitamin makes someone more susceptible to developing tumours.
But the new research showed no such link. In fact, it may even increase the risk of kidney stones and weak bones, scientists claim.
During the spring and summer, the skin has the ability to produce vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight.
But in the autumn and winter, most people have to rely on their diet to get enough – mainly in the form of oily fish, red meat and fortified goods.
Millions rely on supplements to boost their levels of the nutrient, with it having been shown to have various health benefits.
However, many elderly people are deficient in the vitamin because they do not go outdoors enough.
Researchers from Creighton University, Nebraska, evaluated the effects of vitamin D3 and calcium supplements in healthy older women.
Study author Professor Joan Lappe said: ‘Considerable interest exists in the potential role of vitamin D for prevention of cancer.
‘Supplementation with vitamin D3 and calcium compared with placebo did not result in a significantly lower risk of all-type cancer at four years.
‘Further research is necessary to assess the possible role of vitamin D in cancer prevention.’
In the study, they excluded non-melanoma skin cancers – caused by over exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Some 1,156 post-menopausal women over the age of 55 were given 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 and 1,500mg of calcium daily.
A further 1,147 were placed in a placebo group, according to the study published in JAMA.
All volunteers were asked to limit their consumption of both supplements outside the intervention.
New cancer cases were diagnosed in 45 participants in the treatment group – equivalent to 3.89 per cent.
While 64 went on to develop of a form of the disease in the placebo group, the researchers noted.
But there was no statistically significant difference between them both in incidence of breast cancer.
The vitamin D hypothesis was first proposed in the 1980s by researchers Cedric and Frank Garland.
They observed that colon cancer mortality rates in the US were highest in places with the least sunlight.
Since then, numerous studies have shown an inverse relationship between risk of cancer and sunlight exposure.
This comes after a landmark study suggested that fortifying food with vitamin D would save more than three million people each year from suffering with the flu.
In the study, published in February, British scientists claimed consuming the vitamin once a week slashed the risk of some people falling with a respiratory infection.